Monthly Archives: March 2018

The Punkari Brothers Preview the 2018 Tim Hortons Brier

Written By Brett Punkari (With Cameos by Lucas Punkari)

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Now that the Olympics are officially over it’s time to return to the Season Of Champions. We are now going to look at the 2018 edition of the Tim Hortons Brier, which returns to Regina for the first time since 2006 when Jean-Michel Menard defeated Glenn Howard in the final.

This year’s field is mostly a top heavy lineup with a mix of returning veterans and first timers, with seven contenders having a possible chance of winning it all. As always, we’ll go through our top fifteen teams as a whole and mention the two wildcard teams at the end.

Firstly, here’s each Pool, which will see the top four teams advance to the championship round for a shot at the playoffs.

Pool A

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Canada
  • Newfoundland & Labrador
  • Northwest Territories
  • Nova Scotia
  • Wildcard
  • Yukon

Pool B

  • Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
  • Northern Ontario
  • Nunavut
  • Ontario
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan

    1) Team Canada (Bally Haly Golf & Curling Club – St. John’s)

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Skip – Brad Gushue, Vice – Mark “Bam Bam” Nichols, Second – Brett Gallant, Lead – Geoff Walker

Grand Slam Record – 18-5 (Champion, Champion, Quarter-Finalist, DNQ)

For a team that a lot of people penciled in to make the Olympics, their third place result at the Trials had to be a bit disappointing. Despite that, Gushue’s the odds-on favourite to win a second straight Brier title, especially if he has his early season form where no one could touch him on the Grand Slam circuit. They did struggle a little bit early on in Ottawa as they got to grips with things on their mechanics, but I don’t think they should have any issues in Regina. Having won it all last year, Gushue has nothing to lose as they seem set to go on another four-year run barring a lineup change.

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1) Team Canada (Brad Gushue)

Olympic Trials disappointment aside, the Gushue rink has been the team to beat over the last calendar year and they come in to Regina as the easy favourites. With not as much pressure as there was a year ago playing at home, expect the Newfoundland squad to have a strong week with a couple of challenges here or there. They may have struggled a little bit at some recent events, but we said that about Kevin Koe the last two years and they did okay at the Brier. 

2) Manitoba (West St. Paul Curling Club – Winnipeg)

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Skip – Reid Carruthers, Vice – “Pimp” Braeden Moskowy, Second – Derek Samagalski, Lead – Colin Hodgson

Grand Slam Record – 10-10 (DNQ, Quarter-Finalist, Quarter-Finalist, Quarter-Finalist)

This season has been full of ups and downs for Reid Carruthers, especially after just missing out on the playoffs at the Roar of the Rings. That being said, they’ve bounced back in style by running the table at the Manitoba Provincials. Their first trip to the Brier together in 2015 left a lot to be desired with a 4-7 record, but these guys have more experience under their belts and they can make a ton of shots. If they play at their best, they should easily make the playoffs and give Carruthers a chance to win his first title as a skip.

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2) Manitoba (Reid Carruthers)

Over the last couple of years, Carruthers has led one of the top rinks on the men’s side but hasn’t the result to show for it. Well other than last year’s runner-up with Joanne ‘Frizz’ Courtney in the mixed doubles worlds, but that’s another story. Given how well they’ve played from top to bottom, Carruthers has a great chance to defeat Gushue if they come out of the gates strong. Plus, with the Brier being in Regina, you can bet that Moskowy will want to play well in front of his hometown. 

3) Northern Ontario (Community First Curling Centre – Sault Ste. Marie)

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Skip – Brad Jacobs “Cups”, Vice – Ryan “Medium Size” Fry, Second – E.J. Harnden, Lead – Ryan “Pete” Harnden

Grand Slam Record – 14-7 (Semi-Finalist, Quarter-Finalist, DNQ, Semi-Finalist)

Speaking of teams who have had up and down stretches, Brad Jacobs got off to a pretty promising start to the season until the Roar Of The Rings where things just fell apart and they missed out on the playoffs. Then at the Northern Ontario provincials, Jacobs had to grind his way big time through the playoffs as he won a tie-breaker game then came from behind to beat Canadian Junior runner-up Tanner Horgan. Those showings remind me a bit of what this rink went through in 2013 and 2014 where they always did things the hard way way before winning. With that said, if the provincial win gives them their confidence back, the rest of the field needs to watch out.

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3) Northern Ontario (Brad Jacobs)

Not only is the beard back, but this squad has already announced that they’ll be back for another four-year cycle and another run at the Olympics. With a nothing to lose attitude, I expect them to be in the mix once again to win it all. Like we said in Ottawa though, they’ll need to get wins early or risk getting down on themselves and falling out of the mix.

4) Alberta (Saville Community Sports Centre – Edmonton)

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Skip – Brendan Bottcher, Vice – Darren Moulding, Second – Brad Thiessen, Lead – Karrick “The Jackhammer” Martin

Grand Slam Record – 8-3 (Semi-Finalist, Quarter-Finalist – Only competed in two Slams)

Brendan Bottcher has been putting in some pretty good performances this season, including being our biggest surprise at the Olympic Trials. Out of the other potential contenders that aren’t the main title threats, I feel like this rink is the most consistent out of the group, even if their shooting percentages don’t quite add up. Sure they didn’t do well at the Brier last year with a 3-8 record, but Bottcher and the rest of the team should have a much improved showing, especially with being in an easier pool.

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4) Ontario (John Epping)

Now that he’s finally won a provincial title as a skip and handing the title of best curler yet to make a Brier to Jason Gunnlaugson (?!?!?!) in the process, expect Epping to hit the ground running in Regina. We’ve talked a lot about his ability to make crazy run-backs out of nothing and I expect to see some of those great shots all week long. I’m not sure he’ll make the final, but he’s an instant threat for a championship nevertheless. 

5) Ontario (Leaside Curling Club – Toronto)

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Skip – “Big” John Epping, Vice – Matt Camm, Second – Patrick Janssen, Lead – Tim March

Grand Slam Record – 11-10 (Quarter-Finalist, DNQ, Semi-Finalist, DNQ)

Well it finally happened, John Epping beat Glenn Howard in a provincial final (only took you 12 years). Anyway, of the title contenders this is one of the wild cards as we really don’t know how Epping and his team will perform. They’ll play well as a group or be off their game and force John into making his insane runbacks. There’s pretty much no in between here, but I think Epping will be riding high after making a Brier and be a playoff threat. Oh, and he’ll make two big runbacks this week.

Portage la Prarie Mb.January 2, 2018.Canad Inn Mixed Doubles Curling Trials.Dana Ferguson, Brendan Bottcher. Curling Canada/ michael burns photo

5) Alberta (Brendan Bottcher)

If there’s any team that can break up the status quo in the playoffs, it’s this squad. Having been to a Brier before and coming off a strong showing at the Olympic Trials, the Bottcher rink is continuing their rise through the ranks. A top four finish might come around in their next trip to the nationals, but a tiebreaker game wouldn’t shock me.

6) Saskatchewan (Nutana Curling Club – Saskatoon)

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Skip – Steve Laycock, Vice – Matt Dunstone, Second – Kirk Muyers, Lead – Dallan Muyers

Grand Slam Record – 3-6 (Quarter-Finalist, DNQ – Only competed in two slams)

After a pretty rough year and a half, Steve Laycock has somewhat righted the ship with the chance to compete at his home province’s Brier, even though he had to take the Brad Jacobs route to win Saskatchewan. It’s kind of difficult to tell how Laycock will perform, since we haven’t seen a lot of him this year and he didn’t play well at the Roar of the Rings. This will be a coming-out party for fourth stone thrower Matt Dunstone, another former Canadian Junior champion who has awesome hitting ability. I expect Dunstone to stand on his head this week and there’s a chance here for a winning record with the rest of the team’s experience at the Brier.

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6) Saskatchewan (Steve Laycock)

Like his fellow Manitoban Shannon Birchard did at the Scotties, Dunstone has a chance to have a huge breakout week on a national stage in Regina. With Saskatchewan still looking for their first Brier title since 1980, Laycock is still the best bet to end that drought, though his bronze medal showing in 2015 is quickly fading in the rear view mirror. Like Bottcher, he can get in a tiebreaker but the playoffs might be a tall task.

7) Nova Scotia (Halifax Curling Club)

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Skip – Jamie “Don’t Call Me Charlie” Murphy, Vice – Paul Flemming, Second – Scott Saccary, Lead – Philip Crowell

Grand Slam Record – N/A

Jamie Murphy returns to the Brier for the fourth as he looks to build off of his 4-7 showing a year ago. He did have some close games in the round-robin last year, so he won’t be a push over for anyone. Plus, he’s in the easier of the two pools, so he has a good chance of making it to the championship round.

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7) Nova Scotia (Jamie Murphy)

There’s a bit of a drop-off when it comes from the top teams to the rest of the pack, but Murphy should lead the way when it comes to the second half of the field. Given how well the Bluenosers women’s team did at the Scotties, I’m sure Murphy and his team want to match that performance. If they get to the Championship round, anything is possible.

8) British Columbia (Kelowna Curling Club)

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Skip – Sean Geall, Vice – Jeff Richard, Second – Andrew Nerpin, Lead – David Harper

Grand Slam Record – N/A

In the first of two provincial surprises we’ll talk about in this preview, Sean Geall makes his first trip to the Brier since going 6-5 in 2009 after upsetting Jim Cotter. Geall’s been a contender in British Columbia for quite a long time and having another former Brier competitor in Jeff Richard on the roster should help a bit. It’s tough to say how they’ll end up, but like Nova Scotia, they are in an easier pool and have a good chance of making it into the championship pool.

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8) Northwest Territories (Jamie Koe)

Having returned from causing chaos in South Korea while watching his brother at the Olympics, national hero Jamie Koe is back at the Brier yet again. The last time the event was held in Saskatchewan, he led the Northwest Territories to a fourth place showing at the 2012 Brier in Saskatoon. I don’t expect him to match that result, but his Twitter feed will be the star of the event as he runs wild in the #Patch.

9) Quebec (Glenmore Curling Club – Dollard-des-Ormeaux)

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Skip – Mike Fournier, Vice – Felix Asselin, Second – William Dion, Lead – Jean-Francois Trepanier

Grand Slam Record – N/A

In the other upset of the provincials Mike Fournier knocked off multi-time Quebec champion Jean-Michel Menard in a slugfest of a final. Fournier does have a couple of former junior players in the lineup in Felix Asselin and former national champion William Dion, so that should help them out a bit, even though they are in a tougher pool compared to some of the other mid-pack teams.

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9) British Columbia (Sean Geall)

After a great last shot to beat Jim Cotter, Geall is back at the Brier and has a good shot of making the championship round if things work out. Jeff Richard is a great pick up to the rink and British Columbia usually has some fairly good curlers waiting in the wings behind the big names. Don’t be shocked if this ends up being out surprise team of the week.

10) Northwest Territories (Yellowknife Curling Centre)

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Skip – Jamie Koe “Patch”, Vice – Chris Schille, Second – Brad Chorostkowski, Lead – Robert Borden

Grand Slam Record-N/A

So the king of the patch is back to drink and party, along with apparently having to curl in between. Last year was a week to forget with a 1-10 record, but he did hand Brad Gushue his last loss before he ran the table at the Brier and the Worlds. This rink isn’t a pushover for anyone and the pool format might allow him to contend for more wins. Or Jamie can just go party in the #patch as he usually does.

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10) New Brunswick (James Grattan)

Remember when Grattan finished third in 1997 as a skip and again in 2002 as the third for Russ Howard? Those were good times. He has been in the middle part of the field in his last trips in 2013 and 2014 so there’s a chance he could surprise here in Regina. I just don’t see it happening.

11) New Brunswick (The Gage Golf & Country Club in Oromoctooooooooooo, New Brunswick)

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Skip – James Grattan, Vice – Chris Jeffrey, Second – Andy McCann (With a great Expos hat!), Lead – Peter Case

Grand Slam Record – N/A

It’s been four years since we’ve seen James Grattan at the Brier and his results have been mixed as a skip along the way. The usual problems will probably come up during the week with the teams from the East Coast having to play on different ice surfaces, and that will probably happen early on. If they can get a couple of wins early, they might be in the playoff hunt. Also, how did New Brunswick get Papa John’s to sponsor their playdowns?

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11) Quebec (Mike Fournier)

Like British Columbia, Quebec is another province where the depth is pretty solid even if the big favourite doesn’t come through. Having two top junior alumni should help Fournier out, but it’s hard to see him cracking the top half of the field at the Brier given what’s ahead of him.

12) Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown Curling Club)

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Skip – Eddie Mackenzie, Vice – Josh Barry, Second – Christopher Gallant, Lead – Sean Ledgerwood

Grand Slam Record – N/A

One person who is glad the pre-qualifying round is gone is Eddie Mackenzie as he missed out on the main event last year. He’s been to the Brier but has not had a lot of success with his best result being a 4-7 showing in 2014. The addition of Josh Barry at vice should help them get a few more wins, but he’ll be in tough as he’s in the harder of the two pools.

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12) Yukon (Thomas Scoffin)

Like Sarah Koltun, Scoffin is the future of curling in the Territories once national hero Jamie Koe retires to open #Patch Breweries or something along those lines. It will be a learning week for this talented youngster but expect Scoffin to make some noise in the years to come, especially if some lineup changes happen in the next few months and he joins a veteran lineup.

13) Yukon (Whitehorse Curling Club)

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Skip – Thomas Scoffin, Vice – Tom Appleman, Second – Wade Scoffin, Lead – Steve Fecteau

Grand Slam Record – N/A

A seven-time Canadian junior participant that led the Yukon to a 7-5 record in 2011 and won a silver medal with Alberta in 2012 after losing to Matt Dunstone in the final, Thomas Scoffin has returned to his home province with a pretty solid squad. Not only is he playing with his dad, but he’s also brought along Tom Appleman who used to play with Brendan Bottcher. Like Jamie Koe has done with the Northwest Territories, Scoffin has a chance to carry the Yukon for many years. He might struggle this week, but if his success at the Juniors is any indication, expect him to pull off some big upsets over the next few years.

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13) Prince Edward Island (Eddie MacKenzie)

He’s gotten a little bit better after a few trips to the Brier, but it’s hard to see MacKenzie finishing anywhere else but the bottom of the field. With no true young talent set to lead a team after Adam Casey went to Saskatchewan, it might be a long while before Prince Edward Island is near the upper half of the standings.

14) Newfoundland & Labrador (Bally Haly Golf & Curling Club – St. John’s)

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Skip – Greg Smith, Vice – Matthew Hunt, Second – Andrew Taylor, Lead – Ian Withycombe

(Could Curling Canada not get a better photo than this blurry one of the rink?)

Grand Slam Record – N/A

This is where we find out what the depth of curling in Newfoundland is like on the men’s side if someone other than Brad Gushue makes it to the Brier. Don’t get me wrong, it was great to see plenty of teams in the provincials after just two took part a couple of years ago, but this is going to be a long week for Smith. With that said, it’s going to be a big help to have someone else at the Brier from the province. I mean, Gushue can’t play forever right?

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14) Newfoundland & Labrador (Greg Smith)

Had the defending U Sports national champion Adam Boland won the provincials, I may have had this province in a higher slot. Granted, Smith did represent Newfoundland at the juniors a few years ago, but I suspect this will be a long week for the rink. They will get to play Gushue though, so that will be fun.

15) Nunavut (Iqualit Curling Club)

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Skip – Dave St. Louis, Vice – Wade Kingdon, Second – Peter Mackey, Lead – Jeff Nadeau

Grand Slam Record – N/A

This is pretty much a similar story to our preview for the Scotties regarding this territory. Yes, Dave St. Louis will be able to get more games under his belt and be able to help Nunavut progress, but he’ll be in a really tough group and will have to play Saskatchewan, Ontario, Manitoba and Northern Ontario along the way. Their might be some big blowouts coming, but if they can keep these games somewhat close it might be a good week.

Ottawa Ont.Mar 4, 2016.Tim Hortons Brier. Team Nunavut skip Wayne Kingdon, Curling Canada/ michael burns photo

15) Nunavut (Dave St. Louis)

The big question for Nunavut is of course if they will win a game this week. Their best chance would be against Prince Edward Island in Pool Play, but they may have a shot in the seeeding games to wrap up the week depending on who they face. Either way, it’s going to be a long week.

Wildcard Game Preview

Team Mike McEwen (Fort Rouge Curling Club – Winnipeg)

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Skip- “ Magic” Mike McEwen, Vice – B.J. Neufeld, Second – Matt Wozniak, Lead – Denni Neufeld

Grand Slam Record – 11-7 (Semi-Finalist, Semi-Finalist, Quarter-Finalist – Only competed in three slams)

This almost has a very similar feel to Chelsea Carey’s trip to the Scotties, as the Canadian Trials runner-up failed to win the provincials. Granted, McEwen missed almost all of the Manitoba provincials due to the chicken pox, which forced the team to play with just three guys and put B.J. Neufeld at skip. They made it to the finals, which saw McEwen make a shocking return at vice, but they came up just short against Reid Carruthers. McEwen is healthy once again and is the favourite to win this game. If he make it to the main field, he should easily make it to the podium.

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Provided he doesn’t look like Sickly Sam again, McEwen should bounce back from two tough losses and make it to the Brier field if all goes well in the winner-take-all contest. If he does make it there, this rink should be the biggest threat to knocking off Brad Gushue. It remains to be seen if this lineup will stay intact after the season, so this might be their last shot at a major crown if changes are in store.

Team Jason Gunnlaugson (Granite Curling Club – Winnipeg)

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Skip – “Gunner” Jason Gunnlaugson, Vice – Alex Forrest, Second – Ian McMillan, Lead – Connor Njegovan

Grand Slam Record – 15-6 (Champion, Quarter-Finalist, Quarter-Finalist, Quarter-Finalist)

Now we come to potentially the biggest wildcard in the field, provided he actually wins this game. Gunner has had a pretty good season for the most part although his provincial was a total disaster that lasted only three games. The squad is pretty solid but they just can’t seem to get over the hump come playoff time at the Grand Slams, other than than Tier II win earlier this year at the Tour Challenge. Gunner’s hitting ability is something to behold and that could help his team finish anywhere from third to seventh in this field. It’s so hard to guess where he’ll end up, but it will be lots of gun watching Gunner throw throw giant quadruple takeout bombs though.

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A cult icon to be sure, Gunner is having his best season to date as a men’s skip and has been rewarded with a chance to sneak into the Brier. If he beats McEwen, this is a true wild card of a rink as they could be anywhere from the finals to missing out on the playoffs. Personally, I’d probably have them in fourth place behind the big three, but the Gunner and Koe matchup will be the game of the week for pure comedy. TSN probably won’t show it, but  that’s their loss. 

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The Punkari Brothers Review the 2018 Winter Olympics Men’s and Women’s Curling Events

Written by Brett Punkari (With Cameos by Lucas Punkari)

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The 2018 Winter Olympics will go down as one of the most historic events in curling history, as there were some incredible performances from nations you would not expect to be medal contenders and shocking disappointments for teams you would expect to be at the top.

We also saw yours truly lose his mind over CBC’s tire fire coverage of the curling, but that’s another rant for another day.

It will take some time to see how these results will affect things globally for curling, but it should mean a ton of positives going forward as we look back on what happened over the last couple of weeks.

Women’s Event

Gold Medal – Sweden (Anna Hasselborg)

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In terms of the favorites coming in to the Olympics, Anna Hasselborg was pretty much rock solid all tournament long. Even though she had a couple of blips late in the round-robin, it felt like most of her strong showings from events in the last couple of years, though there was that question mark lingering about whether or not her playoff woes would happen.

She silenced any doubt with a convincing victory over Great Britian in the semi-final and a dominant performance in the gold medal game against South Korea. Hasselborg has now finally gotten over the hump with a major event title and with no one in the pipeline for Sweden she should be a formidable force for another Olympic cycle as she’s only 28.

It was only a matter of time before Hasselborg’s rink would break through with a win and they did so at the biggest stage of them all. A solid squad from top to bottom, it was only their lack of success in event finals that was their biggest weakness. Now that they’ve won the gold, they are probably already penciled in as the team to lead the way in China in four years time. Before that though, a clash with Jennifer Jones awaits at the Worlds in North Bay in March in what should be a must-see contest.

Round-Robin Stats

Lead – Sofia Mabergs – 83% -Tied for 4th

Second – Agnes Knochenhauer – 84% – 1st

Vice – Sara McManus – 84% – 1st

Skip – Anna Hasselborg – 82% – 1st

Team – Sweden – 83% – 1st

Silver Medal/Biggest Surprise – Korea (Eun-Jung Kim)

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Raise your hand if you predicted that this team would not only be be first in the round-robin but make it all the way to the final. I can imagine that no one is.

In our preview, we mentioned that although the team was solid, they hadn’t done a lot on the Grand Slam circuit and we felt like they were still some time away from being a contender. Instead, they went on a run that stunned everybody, especially with their stats not adding up to their record until their last few round-robin games.

There was a feeling that at some point the drop-off would occur, and it did in the final as they seemed a little nervous and maybe kept things a little to simple, which is a bad mistake against a strong hitting team like Sweden. Despite that, this going to be huge for Korean curling going forward, especially now that they have a facility that can be used for events in the future.

I’ve been watching curling since 1993 and a Korean gold medal run would easily be the most shocking thing I’ve seen since watching the sport (I think Jenn Hanna beating Rachel Homan in the 2016 Ontario Scotties still tops the list, but that’s another story for another day).

This was a hard team to figure out early on as their stats didn’t really match up with their record and it felt like they were benefiting from their opponents struggles. However, with some dominant games to end the round-robin and an aggressive approach against Japan in the semifinals, I started to buy in to the a gold medal upset. Alas, they went away from the rocks in play approach and played a wide-open game against Sweden, which may have been their undoing. Now it’ll be interesting to see if Korea can keep up this level of play over the next four years, or if they’ll go the way of Rui Liu after his surprising fourth place result in 2014.

Round-Robin Stats

Lead – Yeong-Mi Kim – 83% – Tied for fourth (played in six of nine round-robin games)

Second – Seong-Yeong Kim – 77% – Tied for 6th

Vice – Kyeong-Ae Kim – 76% – Tied for 5th

Skip – Eun-Jung Kim – 78% – Tied for 2nd

Team – Korea – 79% – Tied for 3rd

Bronze Medal – Japan (Satsuki Fujisawa)

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Japan also picked up their first medal in curling at the Olympics this year, but unlike Korea, this isn’t as much of a shocker as Fujisawa won a silver medal at the Worlds in 2016 and we know what this rink can do. They got off to a 4-1 start and beat Korea but struggled with three losses in their last four games, although they did beat Sweden in that stretch.

In the playoffs, they had a valiant effort to take Korea to an extra-end and then bounced back a day later to steal away the bronze medal from Great Britain. With this showing by Fujisawa, and the improved play of Yuskue Morozumi on the men’s side, Japan is on solid ground internationally and should have more great results in the future.

With the team laughing their heads off after forcing an extra-end against South Korea and Fujisawa stretching in the middle of the 10th end of a bronze medal game, we really need to have this rink playing more at Grand Slam events as they are a ton of fun to watch. Although their stats didn’t show it, they were in every game this week and will be a team to keep an eye out for over the next few years as they gain every more experience at big events.

Round-Robin Stats

Lead – Yurika Yoshida – 78% – 9th

Second – Yumi Suzuki – 74% – Tied for 9th

Vice – Chininami Yoshida – 76% – Tied for 5th

Skip – Satsuki Fujisawa – 73% – Tied for 6th

Team – Japan – 75% – 9th

Fourth Place – Great Britain (Eve Muirhead)

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This year’s Olympics was a tale of inconsistency for Eve Muirhead as she would have great games and not so great games during the round-robin. Although they got some big wins to get into the playoffs (including an important victory over Canada), it didn’t really feel like they were on the same level as Sweden and Korea when it came to being gold medal threats.

Eve was close to getting the bronze medal though for the second straight Olympics, but a couple of risky shots in the last ends proved to be her undoing. Obviously it’s a dissappointing way to end the week, but with her and Hasselborg both in their late 20’s, expect the Muirhead rink to be back strong in 2022 as a gold medal threat.

Eve’s takeout attempt for the win instead of going for the draw in the 10th when she was already lying one will haunt me for years. As Brett said, Eve had an up and down week but when they were playing well, they looked really good. I highly recommend seeing the finish to the game against Canada, as Eve made a brilliant shot in the ninth end and played a picture perfect 10th to get into the playoffs.

Rough finish aside, I still feel like Eve’s rink is on the right track with arguably their best campaign since winning the bronze in 2014. They have one more chance to finish the year out strong at the Worlds, provided they beat Hannah Fleming in a best-of-three series.

Round-Robin Stats

 

Lead – Lauren Gray – 81% – 7th

Second – Vicki Adams – 79% – 4th

Vice – Anna Sloan – 76% – Tied for 5th

Skip – Eve Muirhead – 78% – Tied for 2nd

Team – Great Britain – 79% – Tied for 3rd

Biggest Disappointment – Canada (Rachel Homan)

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Wow….just wow. To go from running the table at the World Championships and win Canada’s first women’s world title since 2008 to becoming the first Canadian Curling Team to miss the playoffs at the Olympics is a big stunner. Getting off to a 0-2 start with losses to Korea and Sweden is bad enough, but to cause controversy over a burned rock and choking against Denmark to fall to 0-3 is even worse.

Homan and crew did start to make a run by winning three in a row but a late loss to China and a late-game collapse against Great Britain took them out of it. In all honesty, it’s been more a case of not say bad games but it’s more of bad mistakes at the worst times for the team over the last.

In terms of Rachel Homan herself, she is also in the same age group with Hasselborg and Muirhead so she does have another crack at the Olympics, although it is always tough to come out of Canada. I’m pretty sure they’ll be together for another four-year run, but it’ll be interesting to see how they’ll bounce back from this going forward.

Remember when Brett and I said all of the questions we had about Rachel Homan’s team were over and done with since they won the Olympic Trials? Now they are all back again after a maddingly incosnstent week in South Korea. With games that were all over the map (especialyl that Switzerland game that saw them give multiple three-enders and still win) and Homan having some tire fires along the way, this was one of the most confunding performances in quite some time.

With everyone being young they’ll make another run at the Olympics in the future, but the next four years in Canada should be interesting with Jennifer Jones seemingly not going anywhere. Plus, with Kerri Einarson forming a crazy super rink in Manitoba, it might not be as clear-cut of redemption story as one might expect.

Round-Robin Stats

Lead – Lisa Weagle – 86% – 1st (Perfect Game in Draw 8 against the United States)

Second – Joanne Courtney – 80% – 3rd

Vice- Emma Miskew – 92% – 2nd

Skip – Rachel Homan – 77% – 4th

Team – Canada – 81% – 2nd

Men’s Event

Gold Medal/Biggest Surprise – United States (John Shuster)

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It’s “The Miracurl On Ice” everyone. After starting 2-4 and having a bad finish against Norway, it looked another dissapointing run for the United States was coming up with their last three gaems being against Canada, Swizterland and the United States. Instead, they rattled of three straight wins (including an extra-end steal over Canada and a steal of four in the eight to beat Great Britain) to make the playoffs.

With momentuon on their side, the Shuster rink would stun Canada yet again in the semis and then had the game of their lives against the heavy favourites Sweden to give the United States their biggest result in curling history. It’s also a huge redempetion story for Shuster, as he was kicked to the curb by USA Curling’s High Performance Comitteee after 2014 and bounced back on the scene with his own team of misifts as he put it.

Going forward, this win has a chance to get more people playing curling in the United States, and that should be huge for the sport going forward. Don’t forget that this year’s men’s worlds will be in Las Vegas, and you can bet the crowds will be huge is Shuster is playing in it or the team makes an appearence.

Seeing that Brett and I both felt like Shuster was the favourite to get the bronze medal, maybe it’s not that much of a shock that they won a gold medal, but the way that did teh Americans did it with their backs against the wall was remarkable to watch. Not only is Shuster now among the top teams in the world now with this win, but he’s also become an folk hero south of the border with his comeback story. Plus, Matt Hamilton is now a legend with his great mustache and his super out-going personality in the style of a John Morris. Personally, I can’t wait to see what these guys do over the next four years, as they have another run left in them and they are an easy team to get behind. 

Round-Robin Stats

Lead – John Landsteiner – 83% – Tied for 7th (Perfect Game in Draw 4 against Sweden)

Second – Matt Hamilton – 82% – 5th

Vice – Tyler George – 79% – Tied for 8th

Skip – John Shuster – 77% – Tied for 7th

Team – United States – 80% – 10th

Silver Medal – Sweden (Niklas Edin)

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Everything was pretty much going status quo for Niklas Edin at the Olympics. Although he lost two of his last three round-robin games, his rink was pretty much dismantling everyone in their patch and advanced to the gold medal game with a 9-2 win over a Switzerland rink that beat in him the round-robin.

Then came the finals against the United States, where a big double by John Shuster to tie the game up in the third end seemed to change and everything as Sweden never got back on track after that. Sure they were in the game, but they were on their back heels untl everything came apart in the eighth end when the Americans got five points.

This has to be a disspointing result for the entire team, but especialy Niklas as he was the the best team in the round-robin for a second straight Olympics but didn’t come away with the gold medal. If this group sticks around for another four-year run they should be the big favourites. However, it all depends on Edin’s health as he’s talked about being 32 years old with a body that feels like it’s 56.

An Olympic gold medal win would have put Edin head and shoulders above everyone else as the top skip of this decade, but instead it’s another big punch to the gut on the biggest stage of the sport. As Brett mentioned, Edin’s overall health is a question mark and he might not play as much on the Tour as a result if that’s an issue, but everyone on the rink is still young enough to contend for another crown in four years time with no one else on his level in the European scene as of yet.

Round-Robin Stats

Lead – Christoffer Sundgren – 86% -Tied for 5th

Second – Rasmus Wrana – 88% – 1st

Vice – Oskar Eriksson – 89% – Tied for 1st

Skip – Niklas Edin – 85% – Tied for 1st

Team – Sweden – 87% – Tied for 1st

Bronze Medal – Switzerland (Peter De Cruz)

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Peter De Cruz was very close to becoming our dissapointment of the week at the end of round-robin play. After pummling Sweden to end their unbeaten run, he lost last two games against Korea and the United States to go into a tiebreaker, where fourth stone thrower Benoit Schwarz made a great takeout to score five in the ninth end and beat Great Britain. Things didn’t go well in the rematch against Niklas Edin in the semifinal, but the rink bounced back with a great showing against Kevin Koe to take home the bronze. While the women’s teams have had more success internationall lately, we can expect De Cruz tao carry the mantle just fine for the men’s side for years to come.

The losses to finsih off the round-robin was a slightly concerning, but a bronze medal performance that included a win over Niklas Edin and knocking off Kevin Koe certainly was a great one for the Swiss side. They won’t be at the Worlds this year, but this group will be among the favourites going forward at any event they compete in. They certainly proved me wrong with my prediction of a sixth place showing in South Korea.

Round-Robin Stats

Lead – Valentin Tanner – 87% – Tied for 2nd

Second – Peter De Cruz (Skip) – 81% – Tied for 6th

Vice – Claudio Paetz – 84% – 3rd

Fourth – Benoit Schwarz – 82% – 3rd

Team – Switzerland – 83% – Tied for 3rd

Fourth Place/Biggest Disappointment – Canada (Kevin Koe)

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Early on Canada were doing just fine as they won their first four games of the round-robin to set up a huge game against Sweden. It was a tight contest early on, but Sweden controlled the second half as they picked up a 5-2 win and hand the Canadians their first loss.

That’s when things started to snowball as Kevin Koe fell off his game and the team lost tight contests. They turned things around at the end of the round-robin to finish second, but then things got worse. They gave up two points to the States on a light draw in the eighth end to lose the semifinal and Koe himself only shot 63% in the bronze medal game against Switzerland. This led to more history, and not the kind you want to be involved with, as the Canadian men’s curling side joined the women in failing to earn a medal and they also become the first men’s rink to not even make the final.

I’m not really sure what happened to this team, but it felt like the Sweden game was the turning point as they didn’t quite look the same after that loss. In terms of the team itself, I have no idea what direction they are going in as they are a little bit older than some of their competitors. There will probably be a different looking rink on the men’s side representeing Canada in China in 2022, but you can bet that Curling Canada will be eager to turn things around after a rough week.

Even when they got off to a perfect start, I didn’t feel like Canada was on the same level as the Sweden rink they were favoured with when the tournament began. As the week wrapped up, it felt like the Koe squad had aged dramatically and looked nowhere close to the level of the other teams in the medal round, which was truly shocking.

Rough week for Canadian curling aside (which if you paid attention to the world curling scene isn’t a super surprise, though the results happening at the Olympics is not ideal in the least), the big question mark is what will happen to the Koe squad going forward. While many men’s sides do stick around near their 50’s, I wouldn’t be shocked if some sort of changes occur going forward with this lineup. I hear John Morris might be avaliable. Okay maybe I’m making that up, but it makes sense in my head at least.

Round-Robin Stats

Lead – Ben Hebert – 86% – Tied for 5th (Perfect game in the Bronze Medal Game against Switzerland)

Second – Brent Laing – 86% – 2nd

Vice – Marc Kennedy – 89% – Tied for 1st

Skip – Kevin Koe – 85% – Tied for 1st

Team – Canada – 87% – Tied for 1st

Punkari Brothers Shots of the Week

Women’s Event – Eve Muirhead’s double raise double takeout to sit two in the ninth end against Canada in the round-robin (Go to the 2:24:30 mark)

Source: Women’s curling, Feb. 20: Draw 11 Canada vs. Great Britain | Video | CBC Olympics | PyeongChang 2018

Men’s Event – Benoit Schwarz’s takeout for five in the ninth end of the tiebreaker against Great Britain (Go to the 2:22:00 mark)

Source: Men’s curling tiebreaker, Feb. 21: Switzerland vs. Great Britain | Video | CBC Olympics | PyeongChang 2018